Post-Apocalyptic Reimagining of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

May 4, 2015

In novelist Benjamin Percy’s latest vision of the future, a super flu and nuclear fallout have turned the United States into a nightmarish wasteland. The apocalypse begins in Ames, Iowa.

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Percy about his latest novel, The Dead Lands.  It takes place about 150 years after life as we know it has ended. Small outposts of humanity, disconnected from one another, struggle to survive in a harsh world.

It becomes the mission of a new corps of discovery, led this time by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, to reunite the states and forge a new path for the human race.

In his interview, Percy shares information about the novel, as well as his detailed research process while writing fiction.

“I wanted to research the way the world would move on without us. The way that radiation, that age, that heat would affect everything from concrete to vinyl," Percy says. "There’s underlying research to the fantastic."

Nebbe also talks with writer Nickolas Butler, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the author of the bestselling novel Shotgun Lovesongs. He has just released a new collection of short stories called Beneath the Bonfire.

Bringing together short stories "is like assembling a mixtape,” Butler says.

“One of my thoughts was, let’s just plunge people into complete darkness with this collection, but [my agent] was insistent on making sure that there were shafts of light piercing out of all this darkness.”